U of O Watch mission, in the words of Foucault...

"One knows … that the university and in a general way, all teaching systems, which appear simply to disseminate knowledge, are made to maintain a certain social class in power; and to exclude the instruments of power of another social class. … It seems to me that the real political task in a society such as ours is to criticise the workings of institutions, which appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticise and attack them in such a manner that the political violence which has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them." -- Foucault, debating Chomsky, 1971.

U of O Watch mission, in the words of Socrates...

"An education obtained with money is worse than no education at all." -- Socrates

video of president allan rock at work

Friday, July 22, 2011

Rancourt files Statement of Defence in Joanne St. Lewis $1 million defamation lawsuit

The Statement of Claim of University of Ottawa law professor Plaintiff Joanne St. Lewis has been posted and linked on several legal profession and other blogs and has been quoted in the mainstream media.

Today former University of Ottawa physics professor Defendant Denis Rancourt filed his Statement of Defence, following a 10-day extension, with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice: LINK-SOD.

Rancourt is self-represented.

The casual reader should note that several words such as "malice", "frivolous" and "vexatious", for example, have legal meanings determined by case law.

As background, all related posts on the matter are HERE.


Anonymous said...

Good luck Denis.

Your response seems quite strong to this non-lawyer. It is my hope that bully-tactics such as million-dollar lawsuits against an unemployed Professor, are rejected out of hand as too dangerous an assault on the voicing of dissent.

I too wonder whether this lawsuit filed by St. Lewis is a lawsuit by proxy, with the same old thug (U of O administration) driving the attack. Worrisome!

Anonymous faculty member
(worried about what other lawsuits might be launched by proxy!).

Denis Rancourt said...

This was just posted under the previous post (LINK) in this matter:

Anonymous said...

Wow! I just read most of these posts, they were very interesting!! I wanted to add my two cents as a black woman. While I read about it, I never attended U of O so I can't comment on the experience of racism there. I can definitely express that as a Grade "A" student, during my studies I have often met the disbelief of teachers who taught it was impossible for me to achieve these grades. I have also been met with suspicions and unfounded accusations of cheating, despite perfect attendance and active participation during lectures. I feel I always had to fight to prove that it was me! That being said I understand why the term "house negro" was used in this particular situation. I do not know Prof St. lewis or any of her work nor her opinions. But if one believes that a black person is being used by white "masters" against other blacks it's difficult to think of any other term then "house negro" or maybe "uncle tom" to describe it. That being said, when you hear a white person referring to a black person as a "negro anything", even if it is in the defence of other black students, it makes me extremely unconfortable. Negro is and will always be a derogatory term and it holds difficult and painful memories to most of the Black Communities. As such, it is probably preferable to leave it out when expressing opposing views agains a black woman. As a "white" man advocacing Human Rights, I believe you should have taught about that.

July 27, 2011 10:08 AM

Denis Rancourt said...

Dear Dzinga,

Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

I am thinking of this a lot, namely the emotional reaction of feeling hurt by an expression containing the word "negro".

I believe that society cannot best move toward reducing racism by in priority attempting to avoid feelings of hurt.

To the contrary, I believe that the best recipe for charge on the racism front is authentic discourse (not institutional spin). Such discourse, including needed harsh criticism, is unavoidably tied to emotional reactions in the public sphere.

Emotions inform us about our individual resonances but do not need to prevent continued efforts and discourse. It is this engagement and effort across racial and class boundaries that produces advances, not constrained avoidance of words or self-censorship.

In matters of public interest strong words with sting are needed to uproot harmful deep-seated attitudes and behaviours which can otherwise pass under false cover. This is the very nature of public and political discourse.

In addition, emotional reactions are personal and unpredictable, such that policy cannot and should not be based on anticipated emotional experience reactions.

I believe the highest form of respect I can show to all my co-citizens is to speak my mind and to make my fact-based points as strongly as possible to have the most impact possible in generating authentic discourse between real conflicting positions.

My voice is mine and I suffer the societal backlash. That should be enough, without million dollar lawsuits.

Anonymous said...

Hi Denis!

I agree with you that a million dollar lawsuit is not an appropriate course of action. It leads me to believe that there are ulterior motives behind this...

I also agree with you that one can't censor itself based on the potential "emotionnal response" their words may create.

That being said I don't believe that the hope of changing deep-seated attitudes or that wishing to remain authentic can justify the usage of any words or expressions. If it was the case there would be a lot of room for defamation, slander, encouragement to violence and many other problematic behaviors. That being said it has proved impossible to establish a clear line between what is acceptable "free speech" and what is not.

In the case of prof St.Lewis you're accusing her of using "bully tactic" but one could argue that calling her a "house negro" was the action of a bully....

That being said, while I can understand why you used the expression and the context in which it was use, many of us believe that when a white man used the word "negro" to describe a black woman there are no acceptable justification for it. The word negro has been uttered for such negative specific purposes that even if many of us do not agree with Prof St. lewis position about racism at U of O, we will agree with her that labelling her a "negro" is not acceptable. Some of us will never associate this word with positive affirmative action for our own advancement. It may sound cliché but unless this word has been repeatedly used against you for a specific purpose over years, you could never understand its significance in the psyché of a black person. My personal opinion is that this expression should have been left out of the debate. I understand this will not change your opinion but maybe that would help you understand some of us. If that expression had been left out we could have focused exclusively on the issue at hand.


Anonymous said...

I would encourage people to read the statement of claim before admonishing the amount of the law suit. Mr. Rancourt's actions were defamatory at first instance, however, his response to requests for him to remove his defamatory posts were met with hostility and further aggravating posts. It is important to note that while you, Mr. Rancourt, do not see your comments as racist, that in and of itself is a product of your inherent privilege as a white heterosexual male and lacks insight into the impact that words can have--particularly words such as 'house negro' without any real insight into the term and its meaning.
Citing how it was once used or defined misses the point. It is definitely offensive. It is most certainly racist, and if I was the judge in this matter, I would find it defamatory as well.
My recommendation would be for you to remove any and all posts from public access and preserve them for discovery if they have not yet been provided to Professor St. Lewis' counsel.
In the mean time (and I mean this in a respectful way) read up a bit on the topic of racism, because focusing on a dictionary definition is a poor defence to a charge of racism.
Good luck to you